Our Job is Not Easy

When Elizabeth Thomas-Parker discovered two of her children had learning disabilities, she became a special education advocate for children with special needs and their families. Her passion for helping others is what started her decades-long career at LAUSD.

Our Job is Not Easy

When Elizabeth Thomas-Parker discovered two of her children had learning disabilities, she became a special education advocate for children with special needs and their families. Her passion for helping others is what started her decades-long career at LAUSD.

“There was one family, in particular, who was struggling to get their child the support he needed and LAUSD noticed how helpful I was and offered me a position,” says Elizabeth. “It made me feel good knowing I was making a difference in people’s lives and parents were trusting my guidance.”

Elizabeth has worked with LAUSD for more than 30 years and is a Special Education Assistant at Stephen White Middle School. She remains committed to helping special needs children learn and giving them the support they need.

Most of Elizabeth’s students have impairments that affect their physical abilities, and some have disabilities that impact their speech, behavior, and learning. Elizabeth’s day includes assisting students with mobility, communication, feeding, and personal hygiene.

“Our job is not easy. We are the ones coming up with lesson plans based on the specific needs of the student, walking them to class, making sure they are completing their assignments, providing toileting, supervising them at lunch, and riding with students on the bus,” says Elizabeth.

Students need a lot of support, especially as they work to recover from pandemic learning loss. Elizabeth is concerned that staffing shortages and the district’s practice of hiring outside Behavior Intervention Implementation (BII) service providers are hurting special needs students. For example, when BII providers take a lunch break, it’s special education assistants who take over their duties. “So, we are watching our students in the classroom and theirs. It’s just too much, especially if the student is having a bad day and decides to run outside the classroom.”

Elizabeth wants the district to recognize that special education assistants bring a level of knowledge and skills that are critical to student learning. The proof is in her own family. Her children with learning disabilities have become successful adults with careers.

Elizabeth says all children should have the support and resources they need to succeed. The district can do more to address dire staffing shortages by investing in increased pay, work hours, and professional development for special education assistants, “We are a second teacher in the classroom and we should be paid and recognized for the work we do,” says Elizabeth.

Go Back

More than 90% of students with disabilities and more than 94% of English learners in middle and high school are not on grade-level in readingand math.*

The gap in grades that existed before the pandemic between Black and Latino students and their white and Asian counterparts, widened as much as 21 percentage points during the COVID crisis.**

Students in LAUSD lost an average of 22 weeks of learning in math and 18 weeks of learning in reading during the pandemic.***

* Great Public Schools Now, Educational Recovery Now, March 29, 2021
** Esquivel, Paloma and Lee, Iris. “Falling grades, stalled learning. L.A. students ‘need help now,’ Times analysis shows.” Los Angeles Times, October 21, 2021
*** Edunomics: The Study of Education Finance, Calculating Investments to Remedy Learning Loss